Stephen Bell was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis, a chronic-progressive lung and pancreatic disease, when he was 3 months old with CF-related diabetes when he was 24 years old. Despite his chronic illnesses Stephen has done everything in his power to make sure he lives a long and healthy life. At the advice of his doctors, his parents signed him up to player soccer and swim at a very young age -- two sports in which he excelled for the next ten years. At thirteen, he hung up his goggles to focus on his true passion -- soccer. Playing high level club soccer led to his dream of playing soccer in college. He walked onto the Ithaca Men's Soccer team and was a four-year starter, all-region performer, and was named team captain his senior year.
After college, Stephen turned to running because, he says, "Running provides me with a sense of freedom that I can't get anywhere else. Freedom from the stress of life; freedom from the stress of work; freedom from the sense that Cystic Fibrosis can control me." In the past six years Stephen has competed for Team Boomer in 13 half-marathons and 8 full marathons and his first triathlon, the New York City triathlon, in July of 2013 all while managing the intricacies and demands of Cystic Fibrosis and CF-related diabetes.
Stephen's disease does have harsh realities -- like one to one-and-a-half hours of daily chest therapies and nebulizers, a seemingly endless number of medications, and constant management of his blood sugar. Long-term hospitalizations and bouts of home IVs due to lung infection are not only a possibility, but something he endures regularly. His acceptance of his disease has given him the clarity to realize that life is precious. That we should take advantage of the moments and the people in our life.
His message is simple: run fast, speak loud, and breathe easy. Know what you want and go after it with 110% effort. And never forget that with hard work, commitment and dedication, anything is possible.
About Cystic Fibrosis
According to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Cystic Fibrosis is defined as an inherited chronic disease that affects the lungs and digestive system of about 30,000 children and adults in the United States. A defective gene and its protein product cause the body to produce unusually thick and sticky mucus that clogs the lungs and can lead to life-threatening lung infections and obstructs the pancreas and stops natural enzymes from helping the body break down and absorb food. Some of the most common symptoms of CF include a persistent cough, frequent lung infections, wheezing and shortness of breath, as well as poor growth and weight gain. There is no cure.
Daily management of CF includes 1-1.5 hours of nebulizers, inhalations, and chest physical therapy. The goal of this is to open up the airways and loosen the mucus from the linings of the lungs in order clean out the mucus. Stephen also takes 50-70 pancreatic enzymes a day to aid in the digestion of food. He must also manage the diabetes with regular insulin shots.